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The WTO’s agreement on agriculture: where next?

Swinbank, A. ORCID: (2022) The WTO’s agreement on agriculture: where next? Trade, Law and Development, 14 (1). pp. 54-104. ISSN 0976-2329

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The Marrakesh Agreement of 1994 establishing the World Trade Organization (WTO) was a pivotal event in world affairs. The WTO Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) brought the regulation of farm support more firmly within the framework of rules first established by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in 1947; and held out the prospect that it was just the first step in an ongoing process of fundamental reform. The new Dispute Settlement Body (DSB), set up to oversee the collection of WTO accords, was given authority to definitively rule when WTO Members had different interpretations on how the rules should be applied. The AoA has three pillars, with constraints on import taxes, domestic support, and export subsidies. Nearly 30-years on, what can we say about the implementation of the AoA? For some, the AoA was never ‘fair’as it ‘rewarded’governments (mainly in the developed world) by locking-in the high levels of protection they had previously given their farm sectors, whilst strictly limiting the extent to which others could introduce new measures. Althoughthe entitlements to grant export subsidies were subsequently withdrawn, expectations that a revised AoA would lead to further reductions in the ‘bound’tariffs and domestic support commitments that governments had accepted in Marrakesh have never materialised. The Doha Round is moribund, and many of the AoA’s provisions have not dated well. There isevidence,nonetheless,that countries have tailored their farm policies to fit within the AoA’s constraints and conform toDSB rulings. However, without a quorate Appellate Body, future dispute settlement proceedings might be jeopardised. Trade in agricultural products increasingly takes place within Free Trade Areas (FTAs), where additional conditionalities might apply before products can take advantage of the ‘free trade’provisions. Subsidies and mandates to encourage the use of biofuels in transport fuels do not appear to be disciplined by the AoA.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Agriculture, Policy and Development > Department of Agri-Food Economics & Marketing
ID Code:108102
Publisher:National Law University, Jodhpur

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